People age and some things change, but you know what hasn’t changed much since 1996? The Simpsons. Ok...the show hasn’t been as funny in recent years, hell seasons seven and eight, which aired in 1996 still hold up today as two of the greatest seasons of the show that Matt Groening ever produced. Just because the show may have overstayed its welcome and is showing its age, the characters are still ageless! Bart has been 10 for almost 25 years! The Monkees celebrated 30 years in 1996 their music is still as timeless today as it was back then. The original members of Kiss got back together and reapplied their makeup and haven’t removed it since (that’s probably a good thing.)
But I digress…Homer sure did meet some great musicians, particularly in the legendary episode “Homerpalooza”, where are favorite animated father found himself as a sideshow staple on the annual Hullabalooza tour. It was there he met his new friends like Billy Corgan and the rest of The Smashing Pumpkins. Sonic Youth appeared on a TV show for the first and last time, and Peter Frampton tried to show the public that his talkbox playing was still relevant. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t then, and probably still isn’t now.
Later that summer on its 15th birthday, MTV, the network that gave us reality television (thanks, I think?), realized it needed more time for more music. So rather than gut all of their programming and go back to playing nothing but music videos, they created MTV2. Offering “24 More” the channel was dedicated to playing nothing but music videos of bands you knew and bands you surely weren’t aware existed. To a 12-year-old Chunky Rusty, the channel introduced me to some of my favorite bands - Guided By Voices and Ben Folds Five to name a few. Interestingly enough, today that channel now barely shows any music videos either. Kinda sad, huh?
Meanwhile those music videos that aired on MTV and VH1 kept on helping record sales, as CDs were still shifting units by the millions week in and week out. But what the world didn’t know was that the future in how we were going to acquire our favorite albums was on the horizon. David Bowie released a new single, “Telling Lies,” that was the first song released digitally by a major record label. I wonder if they knew some 16 years ago that digital releases would be the main way these major labels (what few of them are left, that is) would see those units shift in the not too distant future.
But CD was still king for now, and there were a few notable releases in 1996 that would see some prominent bands ending up in somewhat surprising places years down the line. Weezer, for one, released Pinkerton, an album that was universally panned and tanked upon arrival. For the better part of a decade the band wanted nothing to do with its now classic songs like “Tired Of Sex” and “El Scorcho,” songs that are still as uniquely original now as they were back then. But as the years went on, its cavalcade of raw emotion and production value would inspire a generation of kids to start bands as an outlet to write songs where no feeling was left untouched. Bands like Dashboard Confessional, Fall Out Boy, and Saves The Day amongst others would cite Pinkerton as an influence and an inspiration to be all emo and such. Funnily enough, Weezer’s Pat Wilson doesn’t consider Weezer to be emo at all, and believes DC hardcore heroes Fugazi are the real purveyors of the genre.
1996 also saw the rise of Brooklyn’s Nada Surf, a trio of guys who were dying to be popular and had no problem kinda sounded like Weezer. In fact, they even hired The Cars Ric Ocasek, producer of Weezer’s first record, to produced their debut album, High/Low, a collection of songs full of all the buzzsaw guitars, teen angst and melodrama that you would expect from an “indie” band at the time. Signed to Warner imprint Elektra, they would eventually be dropped after a sophomore album failed to make any reaction stateside. Meanwhile they were taking off in Europe, and today have a record deal with a credible indie label, make beautiful music and have managed to show the world that even though the major label monster can chew you up and spit you out, you can still get up and walk away to become an even stronger band.
And while bands like Weezer and Nada Surf made waves as the buzz bands of the moment, legendary acts were also making headlines. Most notably, there was the Van Halen/Van Hagar saga. It started out with Sammy Hagar claiming he was fired, only for the brothers Van Halen, Alex and Eddie, to say that he quit the legendary rock band. They then brought original ringleader David Lee Roth back long enough to record two new songs, make an ass out of himself on live TV, and then get fired…again. By the time 1996 was over, Extreme’s Gary Cherone was fronting the band, giving us the album nobody ever asked for in Van Halen III. And we all know what they have been up to today, right? [shudders]
Well, I think I have blabbed enough about one of the more important years of music when you look back it. If you do want to be really nostalgic, though, and you’re yearning for something from ‘96, all I have for you is one thing. POGS!